One could easily change the phrase to include anything really, simply pick your variables <insert here> <insert here> SEO (i.e. Real Estate SEO). Why not simply get rid of the <insert here> variables and go with just SEO? You could and doing so is likely the right thing to do as SEO, Search Engine Optimization by the way, is really what this post is about. Understanding SEO is the bottom line as increasing traffic, leads and generating sales is the ultimate goal. How we are applying it to diving is our case study. To be perfectly clear, our passion is scuba diving and we aim to understand SEO and apply it towards increasing opportunities to do it often, every single day really. Also to share our passion for the underwater world with our guests. It’s a matter of build it, tell them, and get them to make a reservation. The call to action.
QualityTimeDivers.com was started from zero. It didn’t have a website, any social media accounts, had zero reviews, no +1, zero shares, zero retweets, no likes and so forth. It didn’t have an email address or even a website. It wasn’t registered on any search engines, had no YouTube channel, and no dry wall in the office.
It really was starting from zero. Two years into this and we are still growing and feel we have set a solid foundation for the future.
So what do we know? Quality Time Divers is not ranking #1 for particular keywords, or is it? We don’t have insights into google’s algorithms other than what most people do via the information online.
Here is an example of what we think we know based on results. Kinda like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, how do you like them apples? An SEO firm wanted just over $2000/ month to handle the SEO for Xbalanque. That’s the high end boutique resort in Roatan which we happen to be affiliated with. The Xbalanque website had been around for a couple of years, thus well established in the eyes of the online community, just not very successful in the SERPs. Originally a keyword search for things like luxury resort Roatan, yielded everyone but Xbalanque. The owner asked us if we would be willing to help out. Today, it ranks on the first page. So there, that’s what we think we know, we think we are on to something that works.
How it applies to Quality Time Divers is that we are experiencing a gradual increase in our ranking. Is the proof in the pudding? You decide. Rest assured that we will keep working towards figuring it out. It is worth learning and it can be done rather easily with lots of patience and a one step at a time approach. That’s the whole no-deco approach to scuba SEO.
As of July 31, 2016 a search for Scuba Diving Roatan, one of the targeted keywords is listing Quality Time Divers at the bottom of the first page or the top of the second. We want to be the first one in the organic results.
One can easily start looking at all the things and get overwhelmed to the point of giving up, not starting at all, or simply giving in to paying lots of money for someone else to do it for you. If that is your situation, that of having lots of money to throw at it, then good for you. This is meant mainly for those who take on the challenge to learn something new and then appreciate seeing the results of their personal efforts.
We are not against outsourcing for help. In fact, when things become too technical we call in the wolf from Canada who charges $75/hr to do what is well beyond the capabilities of our web development and marketing team. That in house team, by the way, consists of one person wearing many hats.
Search engine optimization via WordPress
Our site is powered by WordPress. Many years ago, 1997 to be exact, we knew how to write code to generate and maintain websites. We even taught Macromedia courses as Macromedia Authorized Trainers and started the South Carolina Macromedia User Group in 2001. Today those user groups are known as Adobe Communities. At the time, the South Carolina Macromedia User Group, SCMMUG, was the only one in the state. It was designed to be a free hands-on instructor-led computer software training course for students. It was the same authorized Macromedia courses taught to companies in the surrounding area of Clemson, SC. Folks were learning how to use Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Freehand, Flash, and Director. The list of customers included GE, Rockwell Automation, and Home Depot all the way in Atlanta.
Fast forward to serving three years in the US Army after 911 and hanging up a corporate job in Jacksonville, Florida with Pulte Homes for a career in scuba diving. Now back up on the technology realm as there wasn’t much by way of internet access in Roatan several years back and the once web savvy dude, had been left by the wayside.
It was time to create a website for Quality Time Divers. The changes and advancements in web development pretty much rendered the once up to date computer skills we had, obsolete. Luckily a good friend and silent web mentor, Jay Fallon, suggested WordPress.
Probably dating ourselves once again especially after mentioning Macromedia and now the term WSIWYG, but that is really what it felt like during the learning curve of WordPress. What you See is What you Get and WordPress let’s you see a whole lot. It’s a content management system which easily allows the user to create a website with minimal skills. You don’t have to know any code. If you do, great, but if yo don’t it is not a show stopper and not by a long shot.
One of the benefits of the wordpress platform is that developers are constantly creating plugins for the application. Let’s say worpress is the standard model and you can pick and choose your accessories and extras to customize your ride, to pimp your ride. One aspect of pimping your ride is that you want it to be noticed. If pimping your ride in WordPress, then you best be downloading the free Yoast Plugin for WordPress.
Among the features it provides is showing the site admin via the dashboard where your pages stand in terms of SEO. Green is good and red, needs attention. More than simply giving you a color designation it tells you specifically what needs to be done to get to green, for example:
There are 98 words contained in the body copy. This is far too low and should be increased.
You have not used your keyword / keyphrase in any subheading (such as an H2) in your copy.
No images appear in this page, consider adding some as appropriate.
No outbound links appear in this page, consider adding some as appropriate.
The page title contains keyword / phrase, but it does not appear at the beginning; try and move it to the beginning.
The keyword / phrase does not appear in the URL for this page. If you decide to rename the URL be sure to check the old URL 301 redirects to the new one!
You’ve never used this focus keyword before, very good.
In the specified meta description, consider: How does it compare to the competition? Could it be made more appealing?
The meta description contains the primary keyword / phrase.
The page title is more than 40 characters and less than the recommended 70 character limit.
The keyword appears in the first paragraph of the copy.
It also provides information such as:
It does way more, but that is a start for you. Just like that, this little blog entry has turned into, not so little. Whoopsy…
Content is King
As you search more and more you will find the concept of content being king. To create content which users will find useful and share with their friends while hopefully linking back to your site, is the goal. It’s turned into a popularity contest, where the more people that link to your website the better. The more people that point to your site the better it is for your domain authority.
We definitely see the need for creating content which will drive traffic to the site. This is where blogging is supposed to help. The question of is my content any good or driving any traffic to the site remains to be answered for us. At a minimum it is proving a journal of the thought process throughout this endeavor of creating a successful dive operation. We think the information is useful and hope some folks out there think so as well.
If there are particular topics you would like to have us address, let us know via email@example.com.
It is apparently very important to get other sites to link back to yours. As stated, a popularity contest. Supposedly, the more links you have to your site, the more credibility it has. It’s not enough to have links to your site, they have to be relevant. What makes it relevant? The more credible the site linking to your site, the more weight those links carry. It’s not enough to have an endorsement by Pepe down the road, having one from the mayor is where it is really at. Then again why not get the endorsement of the president? It is what it is and one must get creative with ways of acquiring such high level links. At times, the only way to get them seems to be quite simply to purchase them. That seems to go against the whole organic growth or rise of a worthy site, but we are all in this to make money. That can be masked however folks choose to, but money still talks.
If you can read into this section of the blog, acquiring backlinks remains an elusive and frustrating endeavor for our web team ; ) There are several variables which the developer can control, this is not one them. Mr. Benjamin seems to have a good handle on this and we will eventually give in to his green and persuasive ways, but we did set out on this project with an organic growth approach. That’s the idea of moving up the rankings without paying for ads or backlinks. The silly naive web team has to wake up and smell the reality roses.
Waking up to the fresh smell of you better spend some money online or watch others pass you by is a harsh reality. It’s not really that harsh though. It just seems like a lot. Set up an account with Google Adwords. There are plenty of YouTube videos showing you step by step how to do so.
Then you are supposed to find keywords that your guest will likely be searching for. This is where Google has really created a win win situation for itself. We all use Google Search, most of us anyhow. We are set to compete with each other for the same keywords. The highest bidder gets their ad placed in the top spot. How convenient. All you have to do is increase the amount of your bid. Then your competitors can outbid you and it can keep escalating all the while, google keeps suggesting more keywords and groups. One can easily spend lots of money real quick.
Here’s the deal. You decide how much you are willing to spend per click. If you focus on the keywords Scuba Diving, Google gives you an estimate of what the approximate cost will be to obtain a first page listing. As of this blog entry, Google estimates $2.50 will get you on the first page.
Mrs. Jones wants to take her family on a vacation and she fires up her laptop. The browser is pointed to Google.com where she types in Scuba Diving. Because you bid $3.00 for those keywords your ad shows up in the pole position. No worries, you are not charged for the impression. Now, Mrs Jones is attracted to your clever ad and she clicks on it. At this point you are charged $3.00 for that click. You outbid everyone by 50 cents. What’s fifty cents? If Suzy, Janet, Chris, Jamal, Valerie, Rod, Pepe, Kristoff, Ahmed, Julio and Alex all do the same you will be charged $36. Let’s see $3 x 12… don’t forget about Mrs. Jones. If this same scenario happens everyday, you owe Google roughly $1080 for the month and yearly that’s about $13,000. Multiply that by all my competitors and it makes for a brilliant business model.
Hopefully those clicks are leading to conversions, meaning they are contacting you and signing up for courses or fun dives. You can track your conversions to see if those clicks are working. If those $13,000 end up being 5% or 10% of your sales, then all good. One can say that’s your marketing budget.
This isn’t about how lucrative the business model google has created for itself. In fact, hats off to them for creating such. It’s really about finding keywords that your competitor is not focused on but your customer is.
After focusing on a few keywords for a long time, we realized the err in doing so. The realization comes to us thanks to YouTube and the endless instructional videos which are available. We should be focused instead on thousands of keywords and not just the most popular terms. Sometimes the more descriptive terms have very few competitors and will thus cost way less per click. This is what our understanding of the longtail keyword is.
Our suggestion is to focus on attracting divers to Roatan by focusing on keywords that others aren’t targeting. At times you may search for scuba diving roatan and you find a google ad for somewhere in Belize. Pretty clever. We have changed our focus from competing with our neighbors here on Roatan, to competing with other dive operations throughout the world. How about focusing on keywords which our guests would be interested in. How about focusing an ad campaign on the keywords mother’s day flowers for example. A dive shop ad would likely be the only one of it’s nature competing for the top spot. We are not arguing that it will automatically be placed in the top spot, unless we outbid everyone, simply that it will not be placed alongside all our competitors. They will show up there if they happen to also be targeting the same keywords. We just started doing this and the results will be reported.
For those who choose to take a class or buy a book related to all this stuff, be mindful. By the time that book went to publishing it’s contents are likely outdated. Something about 2013 will be quite different from the reality of 2015. Six months down the road, yet another change.
Testimonials are king. Wait, but content is king. Tom Petty says it’s good to be king and there are several of them as far as we are concerned. There are just so many factors when it comes to ranking higher in the SERPs to focus just on one. TripAdvisor helps guests decide whom to choose to dive with. TripAdvisor has a good handle on the testimonial market. It has however some very big shortcomings. The listings are not regularly updated. You can find listings to places which have been closed for years. Submitting their forms to improve this listing and selecting Property is Closed tickets are flat out overlooked. Their customer support is, slim to none regarding not being able to talk to a person regarding your issue. With TA you submit your request and move on, within a couple of months the issue may or may not have been addressed. Don’t stress over that fact and simply focus on what is under your control. They do have some huge benefits and we use TA a whole lot. In fact, before starting Quality Time Divers we managed the TA page for another successful dive operator who ranks highly on TA. Back then, hardly any dive shops here on Roatan were even on the review site. The only dive shop on it was actually Tylls with a whopping 18 reviews. They were number 1. And Tylls has closed it doors, but they are still listed on TripAdvisor. By closed I mean Uve and Dorte have shut the doors sold everything and moved back to Denmark. They no longer operate. Can you see the issue with TripAdvisor’s up to date listing?
Today just about every shop is listed. There are restaurants and attractions. TA finally added Dive Shops to its list of Things To Do. At one point a bridge was among the list of attractions/things to do but not a dive shop. After contacting them via the owners’ forum, they eventually opened their eyes. Public bridges were likely not paying much by way of advertising, nor using their online booking agent.
The thing with TA is that it’s a good thing because they generate traffic and users definitely make purchasing decisions based on what they find there. We ask customers quite regularly how they found us and how they chose to dive with us. Most of them mention TA. The ranking of their system is not entirely clear. It seems to be based on frequency of postings, the rating of the posting and the sheer number of posts. Who knows for sure, we don’t. One bad review has so much weight that it renders the algorithm used by TA kinda wishy washy. If the listing opts to use Viator, their booking agent or spend money advertising through them it seems to propel you towards the top. What proof do we have? None really, but we did have a #1 listing for Resorts in West Bay, and we do spend some money on that. We also have another listing with all excellent reviews who doesn’t spend the money on ads with them nor uses viator and it has dropped in the rankings.
Note to self
That number one listing on TA was lost because a review posted on Turnkey, another TA company was copied and pasted into the reviews listed in TA. They took that as fraud and the result was a drop to the not so coveted number 8 spot. The owner made a little mistake with big consequences. So, use their trip review tool and email your guests but don’t create listings for your guests. Now back to the regularly scheduled program.
Readers can sift through the bull and if you have great reviews with a couple of bad ones here and there, readers can see through the malice of someone who perhaps didn’t get what they wanted. The customer is not always right, period. Sometimes they are dead wrong. Perhaps someone should start, guestadvisor and the establishment could review the actions of the guest. Before the reservation, you check guestadvisor and if the person’s reviews are not good or to the resort’s liking, the reservation is not accepted. As facetious as that may be, is the couple who got trashed and destroyed the hotel room for fun because they were drunk right for not wanting to pay for the damages? What about the potential diver who insists on doing deco dives without the training or the gear and who refuses to listen to the safety briefings given by the divemaster? The fact that the person has no idea about diving and doesn’t like being told what to do because they been diving for years is not the shop’s problem, not until they start diving with the shop or when they get injured. It’s not the fault of the operator that the diver in question has been doing things the wrong way over and over, but the shop will be liable if that diver gets hurt, bent or dies. And because you adhere to strict safety principles some diver who thinks they know it all and doesn’t adhere to your policies will give you a bad review. Mind you we have all 5 star reviews on our TA page and our Google+ page, to date, but if you read into some of the outrages claims written in some reviews for other hotels and activities or attractions, it’s clear what the intent of the writer is, payback.
We believe TA serves as an excellent starting point for guests to find and read about the first hand experiences others have had with the various dive operators. Getting reviews seems to be somewhat of an art form. Travelers usually have good intentions and they promise to write a review for the respective business. Upon arrival to their homes when vacations have ended many of them simply forget. The longer one waits between the honeymoon phase and setting in of the I’m too busy phase, the lower the chances of receiving a review are.
Our suggestion is to send a personal message to guests thanking them as well as asking them to write a review. If they do so, great. Take the time to respond and go provide more exceptional service. If they don’t, move on. Keep providing guest with exceptional service and asking them on an individual basis to write a review of their experience. Sending a bulk message really takes away from the personalized touch.
The bottom line, don’t focus so much on the rankings as you do on delivering outstanding service.
It seems almost a shame to spell this out as it may come back to haunt us. Folks seem to be focused solely on TA and Facebook. We hear from folks, not many people use Google+. To us, we think Google uses Google+ and it uses Google Maps, and YouTube, and Blogger, and AdWords and all of its products, they now have the whole Alphabet. Is it that far fetched to think that using all of their products while pointing to your website from all them will have positive effects? Hmmmm we surely don’t think so.
Google+ is at a stage similar to when TA, as it relates to scuba diving reviews. It has few people focusing on their testimonial page. Within our shop’s short existence we have managed to move up the rankings rather quickly. When a user searches for a topic, the SERPs usually end serving up a listing of businesses on google maps. How many people click on that? Some for sure and if you ask your guests to write a review for you on Google+ it helps increase that ranking. We are not suggesting not to use the other sites, we are suggesting that this one deserves some time as well.
So how do you get someone to write a review for you via Google+? Well first off go set up your account. Set up a business page. Once you have that ready go, search for your page. If your page happens to be Quality Time Divers type that into the Google search bar. The resulting page will have a list of web sites on the left. Hopefully that will show all your various pages (i.e your.com, twitter, facebook, instagram, google+,youtube, ect). On the right you will find your Google business page with the option to write a review. Click on that. Now you can copy and paste that into a link which reads Google+ Review. Write your personalized letter asking for a review on TripAdvisor and/or Google +
We suggest responding to every review because it personalizes the experience.
Google Maps is huge and soon so will Apple maps be. That’s speculation but apple does have a built in search on its devices which are accessed without even opening a browser. So deny it if you want to. Back to Google Maps. It doesn’t cost anything but time. You can include pictures, videos, ect. It goes along with our belief that using all their products will have a positive effect in terms of SERPs but really it provides a better experience for the guest. It’s providing more content for the user.
Just a couple paragraphs before we mentioned $13,000 per year on advertising. That’s likely spare change for some we hope…. Get it, hope and change? 13K is not spare change for this little dive shop that will and does. What wasn’t mentioned is that you can cap how much you are willing to spend per day. You could cap your campaign at $5 per day. Even though you choose a cost per click of $2.50, once the daily limit is reached the ads will no longer show. If you are getting results from the clicks, thus conversions or deposits in our case, you may end up increasing your daily limit. Despite the claims that ads will not increase your ranking, we don’t see how participating in googleAdWords will have an adverse effect on that ranking. At the least it is helping grow the brand. How much is that worth? Perhaps a $100 per month or more? You have to make that decision but we feel using Google AdWords will help your cause. We also believe it’s way cheaper to advertise through this medium than it is to advertise in say Sport Diver magazine where my ad is right next to other dive competitors. We would rather place an ad on Fortune magazine but don’t have the fortune to spend on it.
We tried to do a campaign targeting the University of Florida athletic association. The idea was to get a banner ad on the gatorzone.com website and on the football program they give out to fans as they enter the stadium. They wanted $25,000 for that. To top it off, the person we were dealing with, graduated from FSU. Seriously? He was a nice guy and all, but should be working in Tallahassee. For those of you who don’t know how to get there from Gainesville, Florida simply go north until you smell it, then west until you step in it. That’s right and Go-Gators!
This idea of targeting UF goes way back to the Muschamp years. Our goal is to one day be an official dive shop of the South Eastern Conference in Roatan. Eventually it would be sweet to do so for all the conferences, but one step at time. Needless to say we still want to advertise with UF and coach Mac, but we don’t have the funds to focus on that just yet. Besides, who knows if will will actually benefit us or give us the conversions required for a good Return On Investment. Even then we would likely still advertise via AdWords.
Are you totally new to Adwords? Check out these tutorials:
YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest
More topics to cover but we are done for now…
We are painting the Roatan Sales and Rentals building. And some thought it was all about SEO. For us it’s really all about diving and delivering excellence in service.
If you are interested in more information regarding any of what was mentioned feel free to contact us and if there is a particular topic you would like us to address, let us know. Also if you have any suggestions for improving our rankings via SEO, please send them our way.
Is your site Mobile Friendly?
Check it out via Google’s neat tool; Test my Site/think with Google
What about Apple Maps?
Still a way from Google Maps, but I bet the gap grows smaller. Apple maps is getting lots of love and it comes with every iphone. I think being listed on there as a business is likely a good thing. I could be wrong…
Note to self… four days after writing this entry we ended up at the top spot for Scuba Diving SEO… Guess we better get to writing…
I recently received a message from Matt over at Splash Copywriters regarding;